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Tech Looks for Sweep of FSU

Feb. 19, 2005

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, searching for its second ACC road win of the season and a season sweep of Florida State for the first time since the 2001-02 season, visit the Seminoles for a 1:30 p.m. game Sunday at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee.

The game is being televised on ABC, and will air in Atlanta on WSB-TV (Ch. 2). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Network, and airs in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1).

The Yellow Jackets (14-8, 5-6 ACC) dipped below .500 in the conference standings Sunday following their 53-51 homecourt loss to NC State, and have not been able to put together two straight wins since opening the ACC slate with victories over Miami and Virginia in early January. The Jackets have alternated wins and losses since their 102-101 triumph over Wake Forest on Jan. 27.

Following Virginia Tech’s upset of Duke Thursday night, the Yellow Jackets find themselves along in seventh place in the ACC standings. Maryland, Virginia Tech and Miami, whom the Jackets visit next Saturday, are tied for fourth at 6-6, while NC State is right behind the Jackets at 5-7. Tech is 1-4 against those teams.

The Seminoles (11-14, 3-8 ACC) have lost five straight games, including a 78-68 decision Tuesday night at Massachusetts. The streak began with their 64-61 loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Feb. 2.

Tech had no midweek game this week, but the Jackets have not won in five tries following a “bye” in the conference schedule under Paul Hewitt, and have not won in Tallahassee since the March 2, 2002.

Tech remains the ACC leader in field goal percentage defense (37.8 pct.) and three-point defense (30.2 pct.), and also rates among the top four teams in the league in those categories for ACC games only. The Yellow Jackets, who allowed an average of just 57.5 points in two games last week, lead the ACC in scoring defense (65.0 ppg) in all games, sixth in league games only (73.9).

Tech continues to struggle offensively, however, scoring no more than 71 points in any of their last eight games except the Wake Forest game (102). The Jackets were far more efficient at Clemson, however, hitting 57.8 percent of their shots from the floor (5-12 from three-point range), the highest mark for Tech in an ACC game under Paul Hewitt, and had 17 assists on their 26 field goals. But Tech struggled again against the Wolfpack, making just 1-of-14 three-point attempts while shooting 39 percent overall, and their 51 points represented a low under Paul Hewitt.

The Yellow Jackets have welcomed back B.J. Elder (left hamstring strain), who had missed the entire ACC schedule until the Clemson game, and the senior guard has averaged 9.5 points in his two games back on the court (6-18 FG). Freshman forward Jeremis Smith (dislocated kneecap) also returned to the court at Clemson after a 17-game absence.

Georgia Tech had its entire roster available to play for the first time since Nov. 26 with the return of B.J. Elder and Jeremis Smith to the court at Clemson.

Head coach Paul Hewitt has continued to use the same starting five, however, that played while Elder was out, led by 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.) and 6-0 senior Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), who have been Tech’s primary scorers in Elder’s absence.

A preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards and called by some the best point guard in the nation, Jack ranks 13th in the ACC in scoring (15.3 ppg), fifth in assists (4.50 per game), seventh in field goal percentage (50.7), sixth in three-point percentage (41.0) and third in free throw percentage (89.1). Bynum has averaged 14.3 points per game in ACC games, and 12.6 points and 2.6 assists per game overall.

They are joined by three other seniors in 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game; 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 9.8 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game; and 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Elder, a 6-4 senior guard from Madison, Ga., was leading Tech in scoring until he strained his left hamstring muscle in the first half of the Yellow Jackets’ loss at No. 2 Kansas on New Year’s Day. A preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards, Elder has a 12.6 points per game average this season, including 9.5 in his two games back from injury. Not totally in game shape yet, he has shot 42.0 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from three-point range this season.

Muhammad has scored in double figures in six of his last nine games, averaging 12.1 points over that stretch. Schenscher, who ranks sixth in the ACC in rebounding and third in blocked shots (2.20 per game), has averaged 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in his last four games.

Jeremis Smith, a 6-6 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, who had averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 points in Tech’s first two games, gave Tech a lift with 15 minutes off the bench at Clemson, getting three points and four rebounds. Smith, who suffered a dislocation of his right kneecap late in the Arkansas-Little Rock game on Nov. 26, adds a measure of toughness to Tech’s frontline and gives Anthony McHenry a rest at the power forward position.

Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., has averaged more than 12 minutes a game in ACC games, mostly on his defensive prowess, but gave Tech a lift off the bench offensively in games against Maryland, Florida State (career-high 10 points) and Duke. Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior, gives Tech depth in the post positions.

Tech’s other freshmen, 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey (Clio, S.C.) and 6-5 wingman Anthony Morrow (Charlotte, N.C.) have taken on more importance since mid-December. Morrow has made 37.9 percent of his three-pointers this season overall and has five double-figure games off the bench this season. Dickey, who has shot 63.5 percent from the floor to lead the team this season, entrenched himself as Tech’s No. 2 center and is 20-for-30 from the floor (66.7 pct.) in ACC games. Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., has given Tech some quality minutes off the bench in the backcourt.

QUOTING HEAD COACH Paul Hewitt

What have you done with the team during this off-week — “We’ve had two intrasquad scrimmages. In the past, we’ve had individual workouts and given them more rest. But I thought it was time we tried something different, because we haven’t been as sharp as I’d like coming out of the off-weeks. So we scrimmaged Monday and [Wednesday]. We’ll have a light practice Thursday and then really get after it again Friday and Saturday.

On specific objectives of changing the preparation – “Obviously, with B.J. and Jeremis coming back, I thought we needed to get them more court time, going up and down, getting them a chance to build up some strength in their legs and get some timing and rhythm back.”

On the condition of Elder and Smith – “They’re getting better. The first game, they probably played on adrenaline, which was probably why they were sharp. Sunday night, you could definitely tell there was a little bit of drop-off in conditioning and strength in their legs. But Monday and today, I think we accomplished an awful lot for both of them.

On Florida State – “They’re a dangerous team. We know what they’re capable of. They beat Wake Forest down there. They’ve had some pretty good wins so far and won at NC State. It’s a dangerous team, but it’s more about us than ever now. We’ve got to come out and compete.”

On facing FSU for the second time – “The difference is you spend most of your time reviewing your game tape against them, because it gives you some specific ideas about what they’re going to try and do against you. They’ve played four games since we saw them last, and we’ll watch all those games.”

What is the puzzle with Tech’s offense? — “Make some shots. Make some outside shots, particularly when we’re open. We continue to play very well defensively. We just need to make some shots now.”

On the importance of finishing in the top five of the ACC – “I don’t think that will impact the intensity of the games. It’s always been like this in the ACC in the five years I’ve been in the league. You’re getting to the point now where the conference is starting to take shape, and you want to finish in the top five so you can get that day off (in the tournament). But as a coach, all you can do is get ready for that next game. If you take care of business game-by-game, that stuff will take care of itself.”

How many bids do you see the ACC getting this year, and how many wins do you believe your team needs to get one? – “In this league, if you win 17 or 18 games, you have a good chance. My guess is because there is so much parity across college basketball, it may be even little less than it has traditionally been in the past. It really depends on the competition. I know 14 wins it not going to do it. Obviously, we’ve got to get some more wins.”

Your assessment of B.J. Elder after his return – “He’s an experienced player, and an experience scorer. It’s very obvious that when we’ve struggled this year, it’s at the offensive end. I think we continue to be a good defensive team, but we’ve been very inconsistent offensively. When you have a guy like that who can score in so many different ways, it gives our guys a lot of confidence. Right now, coming off of his injury, the first game back, the adrenaline rush carries you. You have one or two games where you’re just trying to get that feel back. I think he’s coming along. He was a little sore after the game last night. He had a tough shooting night, but he’s making good progress. In the three practices prior to the NC State game, I thought he was coming along.”

Benefits of a week off in getting Elder and Jeremis Smith back in the rotation – “I think this helps. One of the things we looked at on our schedule was that we had a week here to get those guys some rest, get their conditioning back up a little bit, and get them in rhythm offensively.”

SERIES NOTES WITH FLORIDA STATE

> Florida State leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 28-24, but Tech has won five of the last seven meetings and 14 of the last 22.

> Earlier this season: Will Bynum scored 19 points, including the game-winning three-point shot with 2.7 seconds left, to lift Tech past the Seminoles, 64-61, on Feb. 2 in Atlanta. Mario West scored a career-high 10 points off the bench, and Luke Schenscher added 10 points and eight boards for Tech. Tech overcame a 33-27 halftime deficit by outscoring FSU 27-9 over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

> Since FSU joined the ACC, the teams are even at 14 wins apiece. Florida State won the first six in a row, Tech followed by winning five straight, and is 9-8 against the Seminoles since then.

> In those 28 games, 12 have been decided by four points or less, 18 by 10 points or less. One of those games went to double-overtime, which the Yellow Jackets won 111-108 on Feb. 11, 1999 in Tallahassee.

> The teams have split the regular-season series six of the last seven years except the 2001-02 season, when Tech won both games. In that span, FSU also won the schools’ only ACC Tournament meeting in 2000.

> Tech is 6-3 against FSU with Paul Hewitt as its head coach, and is 3-2 against the Seminoles under their head coach Leonard Hamilton. Tech is 4-2 against Hamilton overall, with a victory over his Miami team in December of 1997.

> Tech is 8-15 in games played in Tallahassee, including a 5-8 mark at the Donald L. Tucker Center, formerly known as the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. Tech’s 111-108 win against the Seminoles in Tallahassee (in two OTs) on Feb. 11, 1999 is tied for the highest scoring game Tech has had with any ACC opponent. The Jackets defeated Clemson by the same score (in regulation) on Jan. 24, 2001.

> Tech and Florida State were both members of the old Metro Conference from 1976-78, and the Seminoles won three of those four meetings.

CLEMSON GAME GIVES HOPE, BUT OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES CONTINUE

While Georgia Tech did not meet its scoring average at Clemson, the Yellow Jackets were more efficient with their offense. Tech scored 70 on just 45 shots from the floor, second-lowest of the season and fewest against an ACC team, and had 17 assists on the 26 field goals. Tech averages 58.4 shots a game for the season and 57.9 against ACC teams.

The Jackets made 57.8 percent from the floor against the Tigers, a high for an ACC game under Paul Hewitt and their third-best percentage this season. They were 5 of 12 from three-point range, a percentage Tech has surpassed just three times this season.

But Tech did not shoot the ball nearly as well against NC State, not an uncommon occurrence over the recent series. Their 51 points were the fewest for the Yellow Jackets under Paul Hewitt, and the 53 points they allowed were the fewest in a loss. The last time Tech scored fewer points and allowed fewer in a loss was a 51-50 defeat to the Wolfpack in 1999.

Tech also took just 41 shots and made only 1-of-14 from three-point range. The Jackets have also turned the ball over 42 times in the last two games.

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